Provo • It was only a matter of time before Texas Tech transfer Tanner Jacobson found a way to get on the field for BYU. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound junior is just too good of a player to spend the entire game on the sidelines, coaches say.
Jacobson, younger brother by seven years to former BYU receiving great McKay Jacobson, will be the Cougars’ primary punt returner in 2017, special teams coach Ed Lamb said last week. Jacobson, from Southlake, Texas, returned punts and kickoffs in high school at Southlake Carroll.
Jacobson was chosen because he has decent speed and quickness, but more importantly, because he has the best hands on the team. Lamb said coaches put a premium on sure-handedness for their punt returners.
Garrett Juergens was the primary punt returner last year, with 19 returns for 163 yards, but he graduated. Jacobson pretty much won the job in the spring.
As for the starting strong safety job, Jacobson remains behind senior and returning starter Micah Hannemann on the depth chart. He played some free safety in the spring, but in camp he’s seemingly entrenched in the backup strong safety spot.
Lamb, who also coaches the safeties, said senior Matt Hadley would be the starter at strong safety if the season started today, backed up by junior Zayne Anderson.
“It has been said multiple times that the safeties group is a really deep group talent-wise and skill-wise,” Jacobson said. “It is exciting to go out and compete with all your buddies that you have been working with forever. So, we are in a good place at both safety spots.”
Former cornerback Kamel Greene, Utah transfer Austin Lee, juco transfer Marvin HIfo and senior Sawyer Powell are also in the mix to get some playing time at safety.
With how much depth we have at safety, I think it just pushes everybody to get that much better,” said Jacobson, who had eight tackles in 13 games last season. “You know that the guy behind you, or in front of you, or beside you, is bringing it. It is just that little extra push that you need to become great.”
As for comparisons with his receiver brother, who attended a practice earlier this week, Jacobson said he could “absolutely, without a doubt” cover McKay on a fly pattern and could “probably” beat him in a footrace.
“I am seven years younger, so there was always a big age difference and maturity difference,” he said. “So, I had to figure out how to not have that little brother mentality and stuff like that. But now, he’s got no chance [in a race].”
Hifo, Hadley to return kicks
Lamb has said that the kick returners will be the same as last year, sophomore Aleva Hifo and senior Hadley. Hifo returned 21 kickoffs for 440 yards (21.0 per kickoff) in 2016, while Hadley had seven returns for 195 yards (27.9 per kickoff).
Receiver Jonah Trinnaman, arguably the fastest player on the team, will also be considered.
“It will be fun,” Hadley said. “There’s a lot of competition. We have a lot of good athletes that can do it.”
Five BYU players on Polynesian PoY watch list
BYU placed five players on the 2017 Polynesian College Football Player of the Year watch list, which was released Thursday.
The players are junior linebacker Francis Bernard, senior offensive lineman Tuni Kanuch, junior defensive end Corbin Kaufusi, junior tight end Moroni Laulu-Pututau and junior linebacker Butch Pau’u. Five finalists will be announced on Nov. 30 and the winner will be announced on Dec. 14.
Wisconsin announced Thursday that star linebacker Jack Cichy will miss the season after injuring his knee in practice. The Cougars host the Badgers on Sept. 16 (1:30 p.m. MT,ESPN or ABC) at LaVell Edwards Stadium. … BYU linebacker Fred Warner,who is also on the Butkus Award watch list, will be more involved withspecial teams this season, Lamb said. Warner is also a nominee for theAllstate Good Works Team.